Taking It To The Max (Ford Focus C-Max, 2003-2010)

ENGINES – With a good choice of both petrol and diesel engines, the deciding factor will be how many miles you do each year. Unless you pound the nation’s motorways daily a petrol C-Max will likely be kinder on your wallet. It’ll also be quieter too, yet be just as capable of tackling the school run and weekly shop as the oil-burning alternative.

EXTERIOR – Observant C-Max fans will no see the similarities between this and Ford’s Focus, with the former styled to look like a taller stablemate. Being pitched as a more family-friendly alternative to the Focus, the C-Max’s taller stance does much to improve access to the car’s cabin.

INTERIOR – While the C-Max’s exterior bears a strong resemblance to that of the Focus, the car’s interior isn’t quite a mirror image. The obvious change is that the gearlever is mounted high up, MPV-style, while there’s a bit more storage space dotted around the cabin. However, you don’t get the same seating flexibility as some more recent rivals. The upside is that the C-Max does feel like a more upmarket product than the equivalent Renaults and Peugeots of the same era.

DRIVING – The C-Max doesn’t just share its looks with the Focus but it also drives like one too. Compact MPVs often trade driving dynamics for practicality, but the C-Max successfully manages to mix both. Furthermore, there’s no duff engine in the line-up, with both the petrol and diesel motors offering good levels of performance. The car’s supple ride and minimal body roll ensures a comfortable experience for all occupants.

OWNERSHIP – Like many Ford products, owning the C-Max has got to be one of the most painless activities around. Reliability is good and there's an abundance of dealers, which should make routine servicing that bit easier to stomach. If you opt for a diesel running costs should also be pleasingly low, although you’ve got to rack up the miles to make it pay.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - As with any family car - even a plush one - be on the lookout for well-used and abused examples. Tired interior upholstery and damaged trim are the telltale signs. Under the bonnet, check for a clean engine bay and equally clean coolant and oil. Stonechips, parking dents and kerbed wheels could signal a hard life and a lot of miles, so make sure the odometer and service history tally.

MODEL HISTORY

2003: Ford launches a compact people carrier styled on its successful Focus hatchback. Trim levels loosely match that of the Focus, as does the engine range, with a good choice of petrol and diesel engines plus manual and auto gearboxes depending on trim level. Expect generous levels of standard kit across the range. A recent refresh added uprated engines and a greater choice of higher value safety and convenience equipment.

REASONS TO BUY – enjoyable to drive, good to look at, modest running costs, well equipped, practical cabin.

REASONS TO BEWARE – five-seat only, rivals offer more flexible seating options, more affordable alternatives exist, plush cabin could be more family friendly

PICK OF THE RANGE - Focus C-Max 1.6 Zetec

WHAT TO PAY

2007 075,660

2007 57 5,930

2008 08 6,640

2008 58 7,050

2009 09 7,830

2009 59 8,220

2010 10 9,055

2010 60 9,565

Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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